Make It All Go Away


Every four years I am reminded that election periods are magical chunks of time that stretch on for trillions of interminable seconds. During election periods, I remember that although my soak in the hottub with a dirty martini is a bit of time that lasts about one nanosecond, the same number of minutes on the clock can take four centuries if it shows a politician answering a question.

The current election period (also known as the “2020 black hole of universal suffering) is drawing to a close. For approximately 675 months, the country has been riveted by the sight of two grown man calling each other poopy face and engaging in a rousing game of “I know you are but what am I?”

We are tired. We want it all to just go away. We all made up our minds about which poopy head is the poopiest and which we will nauseously support. We’re ready to move on to more pleasant topics, like how to orchestrate a Zoom Thanksgiving.

For me, there are certain phrases and comments that I desperately want to disappear from the airwaves. I love the English language. I abhor the way it is tortured by every person who runs for public office.

Here is my list of key phrases that REALLLLLLLLLY need to stop.

  1. “Let me be clear…” Oh, sweetie. We want you to be clear, m’kay? We always want you to be clear, concise and honest. You don’t need to tell us that this time you are truly going to try to make sense. Just be clear.
  2. “The American people…….” Dear God, if I hear one more candidate trying to claim that they understand exactly what the mythical American people want/need/like/believe/deserve. There are hundreds of millions of us. We don’t agree on anything. Nothing. Ever. So stop with the bullshit of trying to convince us that you speak for the whole messy bunch of us.
  3. “On day one…..” Jeez. If it’s your freakin’ first day at work in your brand-spankin-new job, this is not the day to jump in and blow everything up. Particularly if you’re running for President; day one is going to consist of you trying to recover from all those inaugural balls, learning how to find the White House bathrooms, and being introduced to the nine hundred bureaucrats who now work for you. You will not be saving the Constitution on day one. So just stawp.
  4. “I will not rest!” Please. Nobody said we want to be out their running our lives while you’re obsessed and exhausted. We’re not looking for you to be a martyr. We’re just looking for you to do your best to accomplish the things we think are important.

As the slowly ticking time-bomb of the 2020 election crawls to a close, I am begging all future candidates to be mindful of the sounds that dribble out of your mouths. If you want to get our attention, try to say something original.

Something like, “I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to accomplish everything that most of you tell me you want. But I’ll do my best. I won’t try to speak for you. I won’t promise you that I’ll die trying to get that stop light removed from your street corner. I’ll just work with the people around me, learn from the ones who know more than I do, and listen to what you all have to say.”

Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

The House Holds It’s Breath


The house is sad.

Sitting in the kitchen, listening to the sound of the humming refrigerator, I’m struck by the absence of life. I’m surrounded by echoes. I feel the sadness on my skin, and in my ears, a pressure of all that isn’t here.

There are no voices. No kids are arguing over whose turn it is to wash the dishes. No teens are singing along to transistor radios. There are no TV jingles reminding us to buy the right floorwax.

No smell of dinner fills the house. Pans are not rattling, silverware isn’t being spread. The microwave doesn’t beep.

Mom is asleep again, snoring in her favorite rocker, her little gray cat curled in her lap. I’m careful not to wake them, even though the sun is shining on this warm October day.

The house is sad. Its walls have soaked in nearly 6 decades of life. All the rushed mornings were here, in this kitchen, lunches packed and handed out, breakfasts eaten and cleaned up, bodies large and small clomping through from room to room, elbows crashing, chairs scraping, “have a good day”s called out and back.

All the dinners were here, someone setting the table, someone yelling for napkins. Mom at the stove and the oven, putting steaming dishes in front of us as we gathered around this table. Kids talking about school, complaining about homework, reminding Mom and Dad about upcoming field trips and practices. Math done at the table, the tv on in the living room, someone taking a bath.

There were arguments here, too; shouts, tears, anger and guilt. The walls and the floor held all of it in, wrapped it up and kept it contained. There was pride and competition and sadness. And there was joy, celebration and a lot of silliness. There were kids giggling as Dad made Saturday morning pancakes.

Now all is quiet.

I look down into the front hall. The front door, now closed and silent, used to swing open hundreds of times each week, neighbors and friends and kids and relatives swooping through it and up the stairs, into the sound and the light.

That’s how I remember my childhood and adolescence. I remember it with all of my senses. I recall our life here as noisy, delicious, bright and warm. I can feel myself standing at the kitchen sink, looking out into a winter evening, safely coated in the warm yellow light of the house. Everyone I loved was inside these walls with me. There was nothing outside that could hurt us.

I remember our family life as always busy, always moving, always crowded to the point where sometimes I’d go into the bathroom just for a minute of solitude. There was often music, sometimes an old musical on the record player, sometimes the theme songs from the TV. Best of all, sometimes the music was Dad’s off-key crooning of “Where the Buffalo Roam”.

I smile as I remember it. I look into the dining room, feeling the press of voices at every holiday and birthday, feeling the vibrations of sound against the bottoms of my feet. Seeing the table covered in dishes, wine glasses, coffee cups and plates of food. I hear adult voices arguing about politics and sports, waving hands and trying to out shout each other.

But today all is quiet. Even the refrigerator is still. The house is sad.

I think it’s waiting. Old photos, dusty books, long forgotten toys in the backs of closets.

All of it makes me sad. I know that the house feels it too. This structure that has only known one intertwined, passionately emotional, typical and special family.

I can feel it holding it’s breath. Waiting for the change that has to come.

We’re waiting, too. We feel the very same echoes in our hearts.

We are all sad.

“Suburban House” by beautifulcataya is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

You Know It’s True Love When He Has His Knee Replaced


Young people always look at cute old couples like Paul and I, married for over four decades, friends for more than five. “How do you know when you’re really in love?” they ask, wide eyed with admiration. “How can you tell that this is the person who was destined to be your one and only?”

And the truth is, I have no idea. I don’t know how you can tell in advance that the person you desire, love, laugh with and hold dear will turn out to be someone you’ll still want to sleep with in 40 years.

But I know how to tell once you’re in a relationship that it’s a partnership designed to last.

If the stresses and strifes of everyday existence begin to take the shine off your romance, and you begin to tell yourself that you really coulda done better, it is time for one of you to have surgery.

I know this from recent experience.

A dirty dish left on the coffee table became a ten minute rant from yours truly. Forgetting to water the lawn caused a deep sigh of silent rebuke from the hubby. We were annoying each other in tiny ways all day.

What with the lockdown, the mask wearing, all of the election nonsense and our crashing economy, both Paul and I have been a little cranky the past few months. We’ve argued more than usual, and it was all about the little stupid things that mean nothing but get on your last nerve.

But then Paul had his knee taken apart and put back together again. He spent two nights in the hospital before coming home on oxycodone, pushing a walker, and wrapped up in gauze.

It was on the first night after the surgery that I realized maybe I still love him after all.

I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I’d been looking forward to a night at home alone. I cooked myself some tofu. I watched what a documentary of my own choosing. I went to bed and snuggled in with nobody to steal the covers.

Then I laid awake worrying that Paul was in pain, that the hospital was noisy, that he might have a blood clot (seriously?). I didn’t like the empty space on the bed. I called the dogs up to join me, but their claws against my back weren’t the kind of cuddle I’d been looking for.

The next day I took care of my little grandson, but I worried about Paul the whole time. I went to visit him, and found myself asking a million questions of the poor staff. They were details that Paul hadn’t thought about, but I felt like I HAD to know everything. I took notes about medication, ice, therapy plans, blood tests.

When I got home, I reorganized furniture to make more room for the patient to move around. I ate my lonely leftover tofu and went to bed early, where I tossed and turned trying to imagine how I’d get Paul and his walker up the six steps to our home’s main floor.

And that’s when I knew that after all this time, we are in this marriage for good. I finally have my definition of true love.

True love is when you honestly mean it when you tell your honey to wake you up if he has to pee in the night. True love is when you walk him to the couch, refill the ice in his Polar Care ice water circulator, make his breakfast and bring him his pills. All before you even think about your own esspresso.

True love is really, sincerely wishing you could feel the pain for him for an hour or so, just to get him some relief.

And it’s being eternally grateful that you married someone who says ‘thanks’ and doesn’t complain.

Most of all, true love is being with someone who you know, without a doubt, would do all the same things for you if it was your knee that was rebuilt.

Here’s Why I Think We’ll Be OK.


Today my five year old granddaughter was here. She and her three year old brother helped me make and eat a batch of pancakes, then we all decorated my house for Halloween.

After a few more games and a light lunch of dry cereal (their choice, not mine!), Ellie got ready for her remote kindergarten class.

The school district where Ellie is enrolled, and where her Mom is a teacher, has given families the option of a hybrid school year or a fully remote year. Neither choice seemed perfect leading into the fall, and neither seemed to offer everything that Ellie should have in her first school experience.

But given the uncertainties of the pandemic, and our fear/belief that all schools will be shut down for remote learning by the time flu season emerges, Ellie’s parents decided to have her go remote.

Today I got to see remote kindergarten learning first hand, and I am overwhelmed with relief and admiration.

I should add here that I have been watching a fair amount of C-Span over the past few months. I have watched countless elected officials, media personalities and famous faces struggling to manage Zoom calls and remote meetings. I can’t even count the number of times I have heard Congressional hearings interrupted by “Senator, please unmute. Senator?” I’ve even seen the Supreme Court held up as one Justice or another struggled to find the “video on” button.

But today I watched a group of five year olds and a young teacher engaging in play, sharing ideas, learning about shapes and letters, and having movement breaks. Every one of the kids was attentive and happy to be there. Our Ellie was glowing with pleasure as she interacted with her “friends”.

The kids can handle it. They are resilient, flexible and open. They think this is the coolest adventure.

And the teachers?

Holy God, these people are heroes. Absolute freakin’ heroes.

In a mere six months, the entire educational system has been rebooted, restructured and reorganized. Everything that teachers once held dear, from cooperative learning to small group instruction, has been turned on its head.

It has all been rebuilt, and these dedicated, loving educators have just shrugged and put on their PPE and learned how to do everything differently.

I am in awe.

I am humbled by the courage of the teachers who are in those classrooms, and the ones who are teaching groups of kids they have never met in person. I can’t imagine the pressure of trying to control behavior, foster friendships, teach academics and monitor progress all through the fuzzy lens of Zoom or Google Classroom. I can’t begin to understand what it feels like to be in a room with kids you can’t hug, or lean close to, or put into working pairs. I don’t even want to think about trying to hold the attention of 10 or 15 antsy children in a cold classroom with open windows, and all while wearing a mask.

But they are doing it. The kids are embracing it all. The teachers are doing what teachers have always done. All of them are adjusting to this new life, finding the humor in it and moving along like always.

Everything will be OK. Because the kids are going to make it OK. And the teachers are going to help them.

Am I a Patriot?


At a time of such intense political and social stress, we hear the word “patriot” thrown around quite a lot.

“You aren’t patriotic!” people yell at those who disagree with them.

“A true patriot wouldn’t do what you’re doing, wouldn’t think what your thinking, wouldn’t believe in your beliefs!”

I don’t know if I’m a patriot or not. I’ve written before about the fact that it makes me uncomfortable to describe myself as someone who loves “my” country more than other countries.

What does it mean to “love my country” anyway? Does mean that I love the soil itself, the rivers and forests? Is it love of that which is familiar to us? Do we need to feel separate from others, and superior to them, in order to feel comfortable in our own place?

Or is patriotism a love of those who share our national community? Is it about loving and defending other Americans?

I don’t know. I’m not sure what other people mean by the word, and certainly have no clear definition myself.

But these days we are watching our President set himself up to dispute the results of our national election, should he lose. We’re hearing people vow to take up arms to protest the election results, or to defend them. Americans are already carrying loaded weapons into our cities to murder those on the “other side” in name of “patriotism.”

It seems likely that violence and disorder are facing us in the next few weeks and months.

So I’ve started to ask myself, “What am I willing to do in the name of my country? What would I risk in the name of patriotism?”

I’m not sure. But this is what I think.

I am sure that I will buy extra food, medicine and emergency supplies so no matter what, my family will have enough. I’m willing to can tomatoes and freeze batches of veggies and fruit.

If things get tough, and supplies become scarce, I’d be willing to share with my neighbors.

If it really gets bad, and people are hungry, I think I could manage to kill a dove or a duck or even a turkey. I’m not sure about my ability to kill a rabbit or a deer. But I don’t know; I’ve never been hungry or seen my family starve.

I would be willing to march in the streets with signs to defend a person or a group that was under attack. I’ve done that more than once already. I’d be willing to occupy a park or a building in the name of protecting other Americans.

But what I would not do is hurt or kill another American. I can’t see myself ever coming to that point. Not to prove my “patriotism” or to defend a political idea.

Because for me it isn’t important to love the dirt on which I live. I don’t consider democrat lives to have more value than republican lives. I will not hurt or kill any person who thinks differently than I do. I will not take up arms in defense of “America.” Not on the streets of Portland or Boston or this little town.

I believe that I could kill if I were forced to protect my family. I hope that I would be willing to do anything to save the life of any child.

But to use weapons against others to protect an abstract idea of “my” nation, or “my” party?

I wouldn’t do it.

At least, I fervently pray that I wouldn’t.

Now I just need to pray that most people feel the same way.

Image attribution:https://www.youthvoices.live/category/american-creed/

Helplessly Hoping


Enduring the anxiety that is 2020.

The global pandemic of Covid-19 continues to rage around the world. The entire west coast of the US is in flames. Protests continue in cities across America, and the violence is slowly increasing.

But that’s not why I am so afraid.

I’m terrified, my friends. I’m really scared right now, more than I have been at any other point in my life. What has me so frightened?

I’m afraid of my fellow citizens. I am afraid of a second civil war.

You gotta give it to Donald Trump. The man has managed to create his own reality out of thin air. He has grasped control of the facts and twisted them around to support his own narrative on every subject.

And he has made it impossible to argue effectively against him.

He’s done all of this with two simple, powerful words.

“Fake News”

No matter what facts are presented to Trump’s followers, they are able to easily wave them away. “Nah, that’s just the corrupt media making stuff up!”

“Fake News”

I see this over and over again on social media, and on news reports. I have had my own relatives and friends say it to me. When it’s pointed out that the raging wildfires are tied to global warming, Trump’s people respond with claims that “antifa” is setting the fires to create chaos. People believe it, because when you try to tell them the truth, they answer that the media is creating “fake news.”

There is no possible way to refute this kind of thinking. For instance, out there in Oregon, the FBI (THE FREAKIN’ FBI) has publicly stated that there is no truth at all to the antifa arson stories. NONE. And they should know. They have investigated it at LOT. They found nothing!

Pretty official. Pretty convincing to the vast majority of thoughtful and intelligent folks, right?

But look at a few of the responses that this one tweet got:

See what I mean?

If these people believe that the FBI is in the hands of the radical left, then what hope is there of convincing them of the truth? Reality has lost all meaning. Facts have no power.

So I am truly afraid of what is going to happen on Nov.4th and beyond. I’m afraid.

Fox News and other right wing outlets are claiming that Democrats, the left, and antifa are all threatening violence if Biden loses the election. They claim that they need to grab their guns so they can defend the country from the raging angry leftists.

And left wing media outlets, like Forward.com, predict that if Trump loses, the far right and it’s militias will engage in violence to protest what they will see as a “rigged election.”

And so left leaning militias are promising to take up arms to stop the right.

You see why I’m scared?

I’m scared because the one thing that Donald Trump truly excels in is controlling the national conversation.

He is a master liar. Perhaps because of his deep seated psychological disorders, Trump is able to lie without a hint of remorse. He can repeat the same lie over and over again with no qualms. He tells us that the election will be rigged. He repeats over and over that the election results will not be legitimate. He warns of violence. He talks about rioters and looters as antifa. He successfully whips up his followers and he does it by calmly stating over and over and over and over and over that any statement with which he does not agree is a lie.

Do you see how terrifying this is?

He can tell people literally anything, and they will believe it. As you read these words, there are people in the inferno of the American Northwest who are refusing to evacuate their blazing neighborhoods. They feel compelled to stay at home to protect their property from the “antifa hordes” who have set fires in order to loot property.

Even as I write this morning, people are walking around in stores without face coverings because they believe that “There is no Covid. It’s all a hoax to take down the United States.” Or they believe that it was created by the Deep State to control citizens.

This is, of course, beyond delusional. It’s outright crazy. But they believe it. Because Trump has gotten his followers to disbelieve the press. He has convinced them that his own FBI, CIA, Homeland Security are not to be trusted. He has told them over and over that our own CDC is lying to us.

And if facts are presented, all he has to whisper is his favorite motto.

“Fake News.”

I Am a Bad Mother…..


But I’m a very good Nonni!

Tonight is the last night of summer for my daughter, the fifth grade teacher. I know exactly what this night feels like for her. I taught in the same school district as Kate for more than 20 years. I know the feeling of that last night at home, that last night of knowing that you’ll be there with your babies all day. The night that is filled with the ticking clock of doom.

I remember the feelings of anxiety and excitement as I’d look forward to the first day back at work as a teacher. Those first few days of organizing, decorating the classroom, meeting with colleagues, calling parents, and more meetings.

Exciting, exhausting, thrilling and nerve wracking.

My daughter heads back into school tomorrow, but for her everything will be different this year, because this is the 2020. This is the year of the pandemic. The year of lockdowns and masks and baths in Purell. Nothing will be the same this year.

I know that all of my good friends who are teachers are as sad and scared and excited as my Kate is tonight. I send my love and my sympathy for the angst that I know they are all feeling.

Truly! My heart is filled with admiration and gratitude to every single teacher, administrator, teaching assistant, school nurse and school psychologist out there. What a stressful night it is for all of you tonight!

So I love you. And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry to all of you, but especially to my beloved firstborn child, Kate, the teacher. I apologize. Mea culpa. Please don’t hate me.

Don’t hate me because I am so euphoric that tonight is the last night of your summer vacation! Whooie!!!!!!

I will be back in the saddle as of tomorrow morning. I will be Nonni in charge. Nonni on duty. La Nonna di tutti Nonni.

I will spend tomorrow with baby Max, all of five months old. I’ll rock him, change him, sing him ridiculous songs about whales and hearts and Uncles and eyebrows.

He will have my full attention, and he will be my total focus.

Holy baby cuddles, I am lucky!

Max doesn’t really know me yet, and tomorrow will be a big challenge for him. And a day of heartache for his Momma.

But for me? Tomorrow is the first day of my next year of grandchild care. Tomorrow I get to be my very best self.

Tomorrow I will feel useful.

I’m sorry that I don’t feel sad. I can’t help it.

I am NONNI, hear me roar!!!! Bring on the school year, baby. Nonni is ready to roll!

Nonni Hits the Dispensary


Back in the olden days, when I was young and we called it “grass”, I rarely indulged in recreational marijuana.

But times have changed, and Nonni has joined the growing list of aging potheads.

Thanks to a few conflicting but minor ailments, I am now a fibromyalgia patient who can’t take any over the counter pain medications. Nor can I drink alcohol (hello there, aging liver!). I am trying to cut down on the medication that helps me to manage the fibromyalgia discomfort, which means that at the moment the only part of me that doesn’t hurt is my right earlobe.

Enter the magical joy of the Medical Marijuana Card!! Ta, da! Safe and happy pain relief (I hope!)

For the past few years I’ve been the lucky beneficiary of weed guidance from my kids. My sons and son-in-law have helped me to find relief from insomnia by providing me with cannabis infused butter. They’ve introduced me to the new version of smoked weed, which smells like a dead skunk, burns like a forest fire and can make you melt into your sofa cushions like hot wax.

Not exactly perfect for this old lady….

Anyway, the other day I had a telehealth visit with a lovely young (as in, probably a sixth grader) Nurse Practitioner. I didn’t even need any medical records. I just self reported all of my ouchie booboos, and presto! She certified me!

(No, not that kind of “certified”, although many have told me that I am definitely certifiable.)

She approved me for a Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Card, good for one year.

I then spent about an hour maneuvering the state’s website and paperwork, and printed out my temporary card. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Off to the local dispensary I went!

Well, holy confusion.

Luckily for me, the kind, patient young people behind the counter were more than willing to explain things to their gray haired befuddled patient/customer. They barely even snickered.

The young man who was helping me explained the differences between the strains of weed. Did I want to be energized and given pain relief? “Yes, please.” OK! Sativa it is!!!! But he warned me that in some people it can increase anxiety. “No, please.” OK, then Indica it is! But that would make me sleepy and sedated.

Eventually he advised a hybrid.

But then we had to talk about THC to CBD ratio. Pain relief and anti-inflammatory versus pain relief and high. Or something like that. And don’t forget, there are many other cannabinoids that are helpful for other issues, like inflammation and appetite suppression. We looked at charts. We looked at graphs. We looked at printouts and glossy images. He talked. I bit my lip behind my mask and hoped my eyes looked intelligent.

Eventually, he seemed to feel like he knew exactly the right potion for granny here and jotted down a few notes. All was good. I had pretty much stayed with him so far, and was feeling fairly hip.

Until he started to talk about terpines.

Which sound to me like some type of fire accelerant but are actually related to smell (I think?) and to various types of high but also (maybe) have different health effects. Anyway, we had to consider our terpine preferences.

By now I was just nodding and sweating. There was a line of people waiting outside, six feet apart from each other, but looking a little surly. I just wanted to get my goodies and go home.

But my young and enthusiastic pharmacy major friend wasn’t done yet. Now I had to think about how to take my weed. I could choose lozenges, infused edibles, gummies, sublingual drops, topical rubs, roll on oil, vape, flower or something that was either wax or oil. Oh, and there was even a choice of various “sauces”!

Now I don’t know about you, but when I go to the doctor for a backache, I just want him to write something down on paper and send me to the pharmacy. I do not want to have to decide on my dosage, my route of ingestion or the flavor of the drug.

My little brain was awhirl. I did NOT want to look stupid. I was NOT ready for the teenagers to laugh at me.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were other “mature” people in the place, but most of them looked like they had been using weed every single day since Woodstock. Some of them were apparently using it to help cut down on their meth use.

I kept nodding my head, and saying, “Sure, whatever you recommend.” I kept trying to repeat, “Just make the ouchie booboos go away.”

Finally I thought I was ready to order. I wanted a topical cream, some sublingual drops and one vape for sleep. I pulled out the vape I’ve been using, and told the young man that when I had gotten a new cartridge recently, it just wasn’t staying in the device. Something was wrong.

The 13 year old working beside him looked at me over her flowered mask. She frowned. “You did remember to unscrew the magnet from the old cartridge and put it on the new one, didn’t you?”

The room filled with giggles and chortles as my face turned purple. I looked around at the experts, several of whom already appeared high, and shrugged my shoulders.

“Who knew?”, I laughed, getting into my role as the funny old lady butt of the joke. “You know, we should write a show for Netflix about this situation. We could call it Nonni at the Dispensary.”

Now the laughs were real, and kind and good natured. “Welcome, Nonni!” my young man barista said. “Here’s your product.”

Thanks to a “first time customer” offer, Nonni went home with two vape cartridges, lozenges, sub-lingual tincture, cream and ointment. As of right now, everything still hurts.

I just don’t care as much!

The First Day of School


I have always loved this time of year. Even when I was a child, the first cool morning of fall would give me a little jolt of adrenaline and a sense of excitement.

September has always meant a new start, a fresh page, a magical chance to start over.

When I was a teacher, I loved going back to school because it was my opportunity to do everything better. Every September for almost 30 years, I’d look back on the year before and think to myself, “Why did I do it THAT way? I’m so much better at this now.”

As a classroom teacher, I loved that first day of school so much. OK, truth to tell, I kind of hated the first day for teachers, with its endless meetings, reams of new mandates, and last minute decisions.

But the first day of having kids in the classroom? My favorite day of the year. I loved so many little things about that first morning with my new group.

I loved the fresh, clean popsicle sticks with the kids names on them, placed carefully in a red cup marked “Attendance”. I loved the jobs chart on my wall, with the list of chores that each child would do for the current week.

By the first day of school, the classroom would have been scrubbed clean by the custodial staff. The floor would be gleaming, the rugs cleaned. My white board would be pristine and the shelves completely free of dust. Plants, pictures, books and supplies would have been arranged carefully to create a welcoming space. My desk would have a picture of my kids and little gifts given by students of the past.

The best part of my classroom, to me, was our “meeting area”, a section at the front of the class where the kids and I would gather every morning to greet each other and plan the day. I had a heavy wooden chair and a pillow for my back, but I often sat on the rugs, elbow to elbow with the kids. Every day, after lunch, I’d read aloud in the meeting area, while the kids sat or lay on the rug. They often snuggled up together, resting a head on a shoulder, or even on a friend’s lap.

I loved their closeness. I loved their innocence.

Our classroom had a science table where groups of kids could look through microscopes, measure and weigh items, grow plants or observe living creatures in tanks. It had a library filled with small squares of carpet and a cozy bean bag chair. There was a big art table with materials for working on whichever art project the school’s fabulous art teacher was integrating into our curriculum that month.

I loved the part of the day when we had “rotations”, with groups of kids moving together from one activity to another. I was able to work with small groups of kids on math or literacy while the rest of the class was reading a book, making art, or maybe doing a science activity.

I loved my classroom. It felt like home, especially when “my kids” were there, gathered around my desk to tell me something funny, or huddled in the back of the room to share some gossip with their friends.

I miss that. I miss the first day of school excitement, and the way that everyone in the room was on their best behavior, me included.


But this year everything is different.

I’m retired now, with no more classroom to set up. But my daughter and so many of my friends are going back this week. Back to a new world of teaching.

This post is for them.

On the first day of school in September of 2020, Covid 19 will have changed everything.

This year there won’t be any carefully labelled popsicle sticks for taking attendance. There won’t be any clusters of desks pushed together to make cooperative groups.

This year teachers won’t be allowed to have their private chairs set up, and kids won’t ever be gathering on the rug. Nobody will be hugging or resting their heads on each other’s shoulders.

This time around, kids won’t be able to easily read their teachers faces, because those faces will be hidden behind masks. They won’t be able to see each other’s smiles.

On the first day of school in 2020, classrooms will still have books, but kids won’t be able to relax on a beanbag chair with a favorite story in hand. There won’t be any cooperative groups or any art area of the room.

Instead, classrooms will have rows of isolated desks, carefully separated. Some schools will have physical barriers, made of cardboard or plexiglass, trying to keep the children in their own space.

I understand how necessary all of this is. I am in awe of the educational professionals, both teachers and administrators, who have spent all summer desperately working to set this all up in the face of constantly shifting facts.

Children are resilient. Children are outrageously courageous and mostly flexible.

But this year is going to start out in a way that is foreign, isolating and sad.

My heart and my hopes go out to everyone heading back to school. I hope you can back to sharing a big box of leggos with your best friends. I look forward to hearing about group projects and book groups.

Mostly, I look forward to the day when morning meetings will be able to happen on the rug, and everyone will be able to sit together to play a class game.

Waking Up in 2020


It is the sound of the wind that wakes me up. A cool breeze flutters the dark blue curtains that fall across my window.

My first thought is that it’s morning. After having woken up three times in the night, it’s a relief to see daylight.

I roll over. I slowly orient myself. “It’s late summer….it’s Sunday morning….there’s nothing much on the agenda for today….”

Suddenly it slams into me: it is early fall of 2020.

The blankets feel heavy all at once, pressing on my heart and my chest. I drape an arm across my eyes as the waves come flooding over me. Trump against Biden, and only a few weeks left. The lies being told and repeated and told again. The violence in the streets, the rage, the injustice, the impotence of trying to make a point to anyone who will listen.

These thoughts are quickly chased out by fear of the second surge of Covid that is expected in the next few weeks. Will schools be safe? Will we have to go back on lockdown? Will the supply chains dry up again?

Will this ever end?

Are we facing civil war? The rhetoric on social media scares me more every day. The people marching in our streets with guns in their hands, insisting that they have to protect us all from enemies who come from “the other side.” The images are terrifying.

Will the economy continue to slide, and what will that mean for us, for our future? Are we heading into a depression, or even another deep recession, like the one that ravaged this small town just over a decade ago?

I roll over again, pulling my knees up to ease the pain in my back and in my soul. I’d like to stay here all day, rolled up like a pill bug, shielding myself from the reality that is 2020.

It’s the same every day. It’s the same every time I wake up. I stay in my restful place for maybe ten seconds, and suddenly I’m drowning in helplessness and frustration. Every action feels futile.

Everything I know is out of my control.

But I don’t stay in my bed. I refuse to be that far down. I push myself to my feet and stand in my window, holding the curtains back. I force myself to see my own small piece of the universe.

The woods are glowing. Wet leaves sparkle in the breeze. The air smells of the earth and a hint of the coming frost. There’s a cardinal chirping out there, and from overhead I hear a hawk’s piercing call.

The thumping of two tails on my bedroom floor tells me that my dogs are up and waiting for their hugs and scratches. I smell coffee, and picture my husband in his blue robe, knees up and feet on the scratched coffee table, checking the news on his laptop.

I am healthy and safe. There is more than enough food in our house to feed us for months. My children are safe and healthy. My grandchildren are joyfully oblivious to the wide world, and are happy to have so much time with both parents.

This reality, my small piece of reality, is where I absolutely must keep my focus.

I can’t change the outcome of the election. I can’t force Trump to stop lying to us. I can’t force people to see those lies for the blatant gaslighting that they are.

I can’t cure the virus, or keep the schools safe and healthy. I can’t give 50 million Americans jobs or make Europe let us all back in.

What I can do is enjoy my cup of esspresso, scratch the soft spots behind my dog’s ears and give my husband a hug.

I can tell my children and grandchildren how much I love them, and I can call my Momma for a chat. I can send letters and cards to friends.

That is my world for now.

The challenge is to convince myself that it is, in fact, enough.